5 hidden reasons why you can’t lose weight

Have you tried the latest diet?

Or the latest slimming supplement?

Or the latest high intensity workout to burn fat?

Maybe your eating much less than you used to, but you’re still not losing weight?

Whilst the amount of calories you eat and burn do play a big role, the reality is that it’s not quite as simple as eating less than you burn. 

Whilst exercise and nutrition are important, so are lifestyle factors such as sleep and stress.

So here are 5 often hidden (but very real) reasons why you might not be losing weight.

1. Not eating enough

You would think that not eating enough would help to lose weight, right?

While science suggests that there are some benefits to fasting i.e. going 12 or more hours without eating, not eating enough is a recipe for burnout and for the body to fight back. 

The body strives to be in a state of balance and suddenly and severely restricting calories will just make your body attempt to maintain balance itself by holding on to your existing weight. 

Leptin is the main hormone responsible for feelings of hunger.

But if you undereat, the body produces less leptin and this in turn slows down fat loss.

Leptin is a major reason why it’s far better to eat more calories on a consistent basis and train, rather than go into a huge deficit along with burning more through training.

Solution: make sure you eat when you feel hungry. Focus on low calorie, high nutrient and high fibre foods such as fruits, vegetables and legumes. These are very satiating and will keep you fuller for longer. You can also calculate your base metabolic rate (BMR) here and try not to go more than 500 calories a day below this.

2. Underestimating hidden calories

It’s common to underestimate the calories you’re actually eating.

It’s also easy to forget about the calories from things like coffee, cooking oil, salad dressing, juice and wine thinking that they can’t be that much. 

However, these are likely to have way more calories than that banana you had for a snack!

They are highly calorific and yet are low in nutrients and satiety.

These types of hidden calories are likely to counter any weight loss effort without even realising it.

Solution: try cooking with water instead of oil, using oil free salad dressings or replacing coffee with herbal tea. You can also try measuring out some of the foods you eat regularly to check how much you are actually eating compared to a serving size (as a rule of thumb a serving size is the size of a fist).  

3. Not consistently moving enough

It’s common nowadays for us to sit down for 15 hours a day and do exercise for one hour.

However, research shows that consistent movement throughout the day is best for fat loss and health. Studies show small movements consistently throughout the day keep your body burning calories. 

This is an evident trait in the Blue Zones. Blue zones are areas of the world where people live the longest and healthiest lives.

Physical activity is built into their lives.

Whilst it is not practical for many of us who have sedentary jobs to be active throughout the day, simply getting up from your desk for a few minutes every hour is good enough. See my guide here on how to be more active and productive in an office job.

Solution: walk and cycle all or part way to work, take a slightly longer walk to the toilet or kitchen, take a lunchtime walk, have walking meetings, get up and stretch just for one minute every hour. This might not seem much but has a massive impact. 

4. Not getting good quality sleep

If you’re not sleeping well, you’re not healthy.

You can eat the most healthy diet and go to the gym every day, but if you’re not getting good quality sleep it won’t count for much when it comes to your health and fat loss.

Sleep is where your body utilises nutrients from food, repairs and the benefits of exercise you have done and burns fat.

It’s not just important, it’s essential.

Many people don’t get enough sleep.

But many people also get 8 hours sleep but its of poor quality or interrupted sleep.

Research shows that the earlier you go to sleep, the better.

The natural times for us to sleep are between 10pm-2am which is where we get the most deep sleep.

The less sleep you get, the more it will also impact your hormones – further limiting fat loss and increasing hunger and cravings the next day.

Solution: Research shows that exercise in the morning greatly improves sleep. Aim for just 5 minutes of exercise which will also kickstart your body and help you feel energised. Also, replace screen time 30 mins before bed with something of equal or of greater value – reading a good book, meditation, yoga, connect with others or a gentle walk. This will prime your body into getting into a state of deep sleep.

5. Stress

Stress isn’t all bad.

In fact, if our ancestors hadn’t had the fight or flight stress responses humankind would probably not exist.

What’s bad is the type of stress we are exposed to in the modern world on a consistent basis: technology, artificial light, traffic, anxiety, a culture of being busy for the sake of being busy and many more stresses keep us in a constant state of stress.

Our autonomic nervous system comprises both sympathetic (in times of stress) and parasympathetic (in times of relaxation) systems that control our involuntary responses.

Being in a constant state of stress (sympathetic nervous system) means that the body releases more of the stress hormone cortisol and has to cope with this to survive by putting off other functions. 

Functions that the parasympathetic nervous system could be doing such as digestion and immunity.

In short, this means the body has a hard time regulating itself for fat loss if you are in a state of stress all the time.

Therefore, you need to try and make time for more relaxing activities as much as possible.

Solution: Make time for you every day: meditate just by counting the seconds of your breath, hold a yoga pose, read, go for a walk or feel the sun on your face. 

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